In some ways this is the best time of year to be a fan of the Vancouver Whitecaps. The season has ended in disappointment, leaving our minds free to wonder as to what the team might look like next year. Of course the ‘Caps are always pretty tight lipped about their transfer targets so as fans we’re left chasing shadows trying to guess who they might be in for. As a result some of the connections to the players discussed in this article are rather tenuous. But it’s fun to speculate so, if you’ll indulge me, let’s look at some of the players the Whitecaps might be after.
Trip to Mexico:
We know that Carl Robinson has been to some matches in Mexico. We don’t know exactly who he’s there watching but we can make some educated guesses. We know that the ‘Caps aren't likely to shell out a big transfer fee (sigh) so that probably means it’s a player on an expiring contract. This includes some pretty big names, like Andre-Pierre Gignac and Keisuke Honda. Both players somewhat fill a need, striker and attacking midfielder, but I don’t think they’re particularly likely targets. They’re both over 30 and likely to demand huge wages which doesn’t really fit the MO of Whitecaps DP signings. The maximum wage we’re likely to see is a little under 2 million. This is about what Fredy Montero and Pedro Morales made. So we should look for players in that price bracket.
Javier Aquino: Probably the most exciting player on the list is Aquino. He’s played 68 games in La Liga with Villareal and and Rayo Valecano and has 49 caps for Mexico. He’s 27 and on an expiring contract. Aquino is a winger who plays mostly on the left but often cuts inside, kind of like a really good version of Cristian Techera. A lot of fans have been calling for a DP left midfielder and Aquino would fit the bill. With his pedigree Aquino would be one of the best players in MLS but prying him away from the wealthy and successful Tigres could prove difficult.
Isaac Brizuela: Brizuela, also 27, is primarily a right winger but can play anywhere in the attacking midfield strata. He doesn’t have any European experience but he’s had a successful career in Liga MX, currently playing for Chivas. Despite his 9 caps for Mexico, Brizuela was born in the United States and thus would be a domestic player. The Whitecaps are often heavy on internationals so a domestic DP who fills a position the fans want to see improvement in would make a lot of squad sense.
Alexis Canelo: Puebla’s Alexis Canelo can play in any attacking position but operates mostly as a striker. If Montero doesn’t come back then Canelo could be a good supplement for newly signed Anthony Blondell. Canelo’s goalscoring record is a bit mediocre but would probably make a good MLS player, probably more of a TAM signing then a DP player. Canelo has a lot of pace and dribbling ability which has been a profile the ‘Caps have had a lot of success with in Yordy Reyna.
Kristian Dyer has said that Vancouver is a possible destination for former golden boy Gyasi Zardes. The reaction from Whitecaps fans to this news has been extremely negative. It’s hard to begrudge them this reaction as Zardes was actually outscored by the much maligned Erik Hurtado last season. Zardes was so woeful in front of goal that the Galaxy even experimented with him at right back. To play devils advocate though, Zardes has shown he can do it in MLS before, scoring 16 goals in 2014. An athletic but technically limited striker/winger if the 6’2 Zardes is going to get his career back on track with anyone it could well be the Whitecaps who put in more crosses during the 2017 season then any other team. Convinced? Me neither really. Zardes is on nearly 600k a year and if the Whitecaps want an athletic striker/winger they could just give Gloire Amanda an MLS deal. I’m sure if Amanda were given the 2000 MLS minutes Zardes got last year he could at least equal the two goals and two assists the L.A Galaxy man achieved; Plus he’s young, more technically gifted, and has the potential to improve. If Zardes were coming in on about a 5th of his salary it might worth be taking a flyer on him but at his current salary he’s not even close to worth it.
This is probably the most tenuous of all the connections but Canadian midfielder Scott Arfield has been plastered to the bench for Burnley lately and seemed very taken with the city of Vancouver when playing for the Canadian National team. Last winter MLS commissioner Don Garber said MLS would look to bring Canadian stars home (though to call Canada in general and Vancouver specifically “home” for Arfield is a bit of a stretch), and Arfield is good friends with David Edgar so the move does make a lot of sense. Arfield could play effectively as either a central or wide player who could control the tempo of the game and help the Whitecaps control the game a little more. Unfortunately there’s not much currently linking Arfield to the Whitecaps other then the fact it would be a good move for both parties. Still though, it’s nice to fantasize.
The Whitecaps follow a lot of players on Twitter. All of them either currently play for the team or are former players. All that is, except for two. What is the reason for this? Well it’s probably nothing, but then again it could be, dramatic pause, something. The most exciting of the two is Lazar Markovic. Markovic signed for Liverpool for big money back in 2014. Since then he’s failed to break into the first team on a regular basis and has had mixed success in loans across Europe. Markovic hasn’t made a first team appearance this season nor has he been loaned out so you have to think his time at Liverpool is coming to an end. He’s a winger with a lot of talent so the ‘Caps could certainly use him but I doubt he’d come cheap.
The other player is a bit of a weird one. Honduran goalkeeper Roberto Lopez. Lopez is 23 years old and plays for Platense F.C of the Honduran first division. Lopez has some experience with Honduras at youth level, playing for their U-20 team in 2015. With Richey being loaned to F.C Cincinnati and Sean Melvin likely being loaned to Fresno I suppose the ‘Caps do need a back up goalkeeper. It would be odd though to use up an international spot on a second choice keeper; but for what reason would the Whitecaps be following this random Honduran player? We may never know.
“This is Getting Out of Hand, Now There are Two of Them”
We all love Kendall Waston. He offers a lot but a couple of our favourite things about him are how physically imposing he is and how commanding he is in the air. Waston is 6’5. Can you imagine if we signed someone even bigger? Enter 6’6 Nigerian centre back Jamiu Alimi. This is the move the ‘Caps are most likely to make. Alimi has been on trial with the Whitecaps and gave an interview in Nigeria in which he seemed to imply he’d already signed. Alimi has had two unsuccessful stints in Europe, Ukraine and Cyprus, before returning to play in Nigeria for Sharks, Shooting Stars, and Kano Pillars (and we think American teams have creative names). The ‘Caps will hope that Alimi will be a little older and wiser after playing at home for a few years. He would certainly be a great addition to the #HeightXI.
Which of these players would you be most excited for? Which ones do you think are most likely to join? Be sure to let us know in the comments.
I’d like to give an acknowledgement to GlassCity on Twitter. Though he is not the original source of any of these rumours he is an excellent aggregator of Whitecaps news and many of these stories first came to my attention via his twitter account. Give him a follow.